Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Imitation of Life

The tradition of imitative technique goes back centuries-- ancient peoples heated semi-precious minerals to change their colors to resemble precious gems, wood graining can be found in the craft of many cultures, Victorian ladies wore paste diamonds while the real thing was kept safely in a vault. For thousands of years, whenever an original material was too expensive, not available or technically unfeasible, creative souls have turned their hand to imitating the real thing.

My first polymer clay book was Polymer: The Chameleon Clay by Tory Hughes and it is so chock-full of great techniques and projects I still turn to it as a reference when I want to play in the realms of faux. Here's my version of her Ivory Heart Brooch (mine will become earrings) and her Lapis Lazuli Bird Earrings.

Some of my fellow Flickr clay artists have been dabbling in faux lately, in everything from faux jade to beetle's wings, so I thought I'd join the fun and work on some ivory/bone beads. I spent several weeks on a project with faux coral when I first began working in polyclay and I really enjoyed trying to re-create the original and the fact that I could make my beads any size I needed. Also, coral is really heavy and the lightness of the clay, relative to the real stuff, makes it easy to work into projects—like earrings-- where the weight would rule it out.

I made up a series of beads in “bone” which was a bit darker than the ivory, that I used with some RTV mold putty (room temperature vulcanizing) molds I made from several antique buttons and some old earring components. I love this stuff, called Alley Goop and buy it from Clay Alley . I have to restrain myself from “gooping” everything in my house, especially my stash of Victorian metal buttons. I highlighted some of the molds with a tad of gold metallic rub-on paint for kicks. I love the knot bead-- I've done that a few times in ivory and also in a Bakelite faux apple juice color.

After I got these done and handsanded, I used Genesis heat-set artist's oils in Burnt Umber and an old toothbrush to work the paint into the depressions to antique the beads, baked them for an additional 15 minutes and did a final sanding to get the excess paint off and buffed them again. Then I started looking around for coordinating beads and began to build what became the Delphi Necklace. I made the Delphi mokume gane beads (named after a Japanese metalworking technique) weeks ago but never put them up for sale on Etsy-- I guess they were just waiting to be used in the piece. Other items-- like the ombre-dyed silk cord-- also were serendipitously available. Kismet, as they say.

Elements: 17mm polymer clay focal beads, faux bone rounds, faux ivory rounds, wrap beads, squares and large donut, green agate roundelles, agate chips, antique carnelian beads, no. 11 seed beads, silk cord.

Matching earrings: polymer clay, carnelian spacers, grooved brass spacers, wood beads, handforged earwires and tornado swirl beads.

I wore this around the house last night, as I do all my pieces to make sure they feel good, hang correctly and are sturdy. I needed something a bit more diaphanous and classical Greek as my background attire but the necklace felt good and my husband appreciated the look!

Hope I've provided some inspiration-- in an upcoming post: adventures in faux jade.


  1. Your jewelry is amazing and your clay beads are simply incredible!! Love them all but especially the stag!

  2. Lots of goodies to look at! Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks, guys-- getting nice feedback is like Christmas every day!